What are Insect Pests and how do we keep them at bay?
Insects are a diverse group of creatures that play a large role in our environment. While they do offer a lot of benefits in our large ecosystem they also come with their fair share of negatives. Some insects will present themselves as pests as they invade your home and gardens causing damage, eating your crops and spreading diseases. Thankfully, there are ways that you can keep them at bay. In this blog, we will explore what insect pests are, the problems they can cause, and some methods to manage and prevent their infestations.
Pests are insects that pose a threat to humans, animals, plants, or structures. Common ones that you can find are ants, cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, bed bugs and many more. These pests have adapted to co-habitat with the human ecosystem and have learnt to find food, shelter and suitable breeding grounds in our homes and gardens.
The Pest Problem:
Pests can cause a wide range of problems. In your garden, they can damage your plants, your planters, and your crops. In homes, these pests can contaminate food, spread diseases, and may cause structural damage. For example, aphids are small insects that feed on the plant's sap which can lead to stunted growth along with wilting and yellowing of leaves. The affected leaves may become curled or distorted.
How can you keep pests at bay?
- Implement Good Garden Practices
Try choosing plants that can resist diseases and are suitable for your area. For example, if you’re in a northeastern environment you may want to plant coneflowers due to their disease resistance nature and suitability to the climate. Also, ensure you give your plants good airflow and make it harder for pests to settle in. Lastly, be sure that you are tending to your plants' needs. Water, sunlight, and nutrients are needed for their survival and the healthier your plants are the stronger they are at fighting off pests.
- Companion Planting
Strategically placing plants that can naturally help repel pests can work as a great strategy. For instance, planting marigolds, lavender, or basil alongside vegetables can deter aphids and other pests. Having sacrificial host plants such as nasturtiums or sunflowers can help with attracting aphids, caterpillars, and other pests away from your main garden. Research companion planting combinations suitable for your garden and incorporate them into your planting scheme.
- Physical Barriers
Shielding with a physical barrier such as a fence, netting or row cover can help with keeping pests like birds or larger insects from accessing your plants. Alternatively, having a raised bed or container can help with keeping your plants out of reach from smaller ground pests. If you find you accumulate a lot of snails and slugs, applying copper tape can help, they do not like crossing it as it creates a small electrical charge that deters them.
- Organic Pest Control Methods
Organic pest control methods such as homemade sprays like neem oil, insecticidal soaps, or garlic and chilli sprays can help with deterring unwanted pests. Other insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises can benefit your garden as they feed on many common garden pests. Handpick larger pests like caterpillars and beetles and remove them manually.
- Crop Rotating & Polyculture
Rotating your crop's location every year can help deter pests. By rotating crops and planting different plants altogether pests can become confused and won’t find their favorite plants in the same spot. Polyculture can be a great deterrent also. This is the practice of growing more than one crop species in the same space at the same time. Pests will find it difficult to focus on just one plant because it'll act like a big buffet for them, so they won't cause big problems for any one plant.
Frequent monitoring and inspection of your plants for early pest detection can help you catch early signs of pests. Look for signs of damage such as chewed leaves, wilting, discoloration, or distorted growth. Employ traps or yellow boards to monitor flying pests like aphids or whiteflies. When you detect an early sign of pests ensure you take immediate action by removing infested leaves or plants to prevent further damage.
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Adopt an Integrated Pest Management approach, which combines multiple strategies to manage garden pests. This approach involves identifying pests, setting action thresholds, using preventive measures, encouraging beneficial insects, and implementing targeted treatments when necessary. IPM emphasizes the use of environmentally friendly methods and aims to minimize pesticide usage, focusing on long-term pest management solutions.
- Proper Garden Cleanup
Make sure to remove any fallen leaves, overripe fruit or debris that can help harbour pests. These provide breeding grounds and hiding spots for them. Clearing out garden waste reduces the likelihood of pest infestations.
- Organic Soil
As mentioned earlier in this blog healthier plants have a better chance of fighting off diseases attributed to pests. One way of achieving healthy and thriving plants is by providing them with healthy organic soil. You can do this by using compost, well-rotted manure, and cover crops. This nutrient-rich soil will increase your plants' resilience against pests and diseases. If you’re looking to create your own organic soil check out this link here!
- Water Management
Water management is a crucial part of pest control in your garden. Overwatering can create moist environments that attract pests like slugs, snails, and fungal diseases. Using a self-watering planter can help with this as excess water will fill up the water reservoir. Ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can compromise root health and attract pests.
- Attract Beneficial Wildlife
Wildlife such as birds, frogs, toads and insects like bees, butterflies, and ladybugs are beneficial wildlife to a garden. They can help control garden pests naturally. Try to provide food sources, water features, and sheltered areas to attract these creatures to your garden.
- Seasonal Pests
Research and understand which pests are common during certain seasons and take preventive measures. For example, in spring, be on the lookout for aphids and caterpillars, while in summer, watch out for slugs, snails, and spider mites. By understanding this you will be able to manage and strategize accordingly to the challenges of each season.
Garden pests pose a never-ending battle for gardeners but with the right strategies, you can effectively keep them at bay. By implementing some or most of the practices in this blog your pants will be more protected and your garden will thrive. Remember, a well-tended garden with a proactive pest management approach is the key to long-term success in keeping garden pests under control.